Houston Astros eyeing to move spring training from Kissimmee

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The Houston Astros hope to be about six months away from inking a deal on a new spring training home, according to owner Jim Crane.

Crane and the Astros are looking to move out of their current Osceola County Stadium located in Kissimmee, where the team has held practice since 1985.

“Our timetable is, we’ve got to have something probably agreed to and documented hopefully by the end of the summer,” Crane told the Associated Press on Sunday before the Astros faced the St. Louis Cardinals in Jupiter, “because the timetable would be to build it and then be here in 2017.”

At one time, the Astros’ Osceola stadium was seen as state-of-the-art; now it has become what Crane said is “probably the worst” stadium in Florida’s Grapefruit League.

Along with the Astros, the Washington Nationals— a potential companion in the move — are looking for new sites in Port St. Lucie, Martin and Palm Beach Counties. The Nationals currently hold spring training in Viera.

“There’s a couple decent sites,” Crane added. “I think it’s just, approve the location, go ahead and verify the funding, and then go for it.”

Crane promised that most of the money to fund a new stadium construction will come from local bed taxes and that the organization could even put some of its own money to make the deal happen.

One of the main reasons Crane puts Palm Beach County high on his list of potential sites is proximity to airports, hotels and an abundance of restaurants.

Palm Beach County has another incentive to move one more club south.

If Washington leaves Viera — which the AP said “appears imminent” — to somewhere other than the east coast, it would trigger a clause in the St. Louis Cardinals’ agreement allowing them to leave Jupiter’s Roger Dean Stadium if the number of teams training on Florida’s Atlantic side drops below four.

The Cardinals and Miami Marlins share a facility and the New York Mets train about a half-hour up north in Port St. Lucie.

Advantages of a move to Palm Beach County for the Astros—shorter spring road trips. Now, the closest rival is the Atlanta Braves in Orlando, about 45 minutes away.

Crane believes the way to “keep baseball moving forward” on Florida’s east coast is to have more teams, adding that players do not want to get on a bus and waste half a day driving around to games. 

Phil Ammann is a St. Petersburg-based journalist and blogger. With more than three decades of writing, editing and management experience, Phil produced material for both print and online, in addition to founding HRNewsDaily.com. His broad range includes covering news, local government and culture reviews for Patch.com, technical articles and profiles for BetterRVing Magazine and advice columns for a metaphysical website, among others. Phil has served as a contributor and production manager for SaintPetersBlog since 2013. He lives in St. Pete with his wife, visual artist Margaret Juul and can be reached at phil@floridapolitics.com and on Twitter @PhilAmmann.